Hi there!

So you’ve happened upon this site, have you? Then I suppose an introduction is in order. My name is Frank, and this is the diary from my trip to the US back in the spring of 2009. Now by trip I mean a five month stay, and by spring I mean February. After staying a few months in Boston while my girl Kristine did research at MIT, we rented a car and went for a three week drive down east, around the south and back up through the middle of the great US of A. Should you for some reason want to read the whole blog chronologically, the best way to do that is to go to the first post then navigate through the rest using the calender widget on the left. Yes, I know, and I blame WordPress.

It was a great stay, and I’m leaving this blog as a snapshot of that time. Now I’ve moved on to new things, and you can find my new blog here.

Enjoy your stay!

– Frank –

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So long, America

And so the road trip comes to an end. It’s been quite a ride, going 6000 miles through 22 states and get a feel for the Texas heat, the Kansas storms and the northern rain. Seeing how the gun laws change as we get further south, exemplified by mom and pop gun shops. The battle for our soul heats up as billboards asks us to “Smile, your mom chose life”, and come watch “Athena and her naughty sisters”.

Yes, that is a huge-ass cross in the horizon.

Yes, that is a huge-ass cross in the horizon.

We did have some company on the road though. Sirius satellite radio. You can definitely see where GTA got their inspiration, as the spacewaves here are filled with kooks and loonies on both sides of the fence. We settled for Maxim radio’s Covino and Rich show, which was fairly entertaining talk radio. Translation; no music and long discussions about nothing. We got our music fix from the 80, ies, 90ies and Alt Nation channels. Also, A Shoggoth on the Roof, the musical that shall not be preformed, got a few rounds as well. We got a CD version of the Lovecraftian musical as a parting gift from Phillip at Gambit, and it has everything one would expect from such a thing. Thanks Philip! Quality stuff all around.

Janet, Andrew and Evan.

Janet, Andrew and Evan.

As for yesterday, we said goodbye to the Moltzs and did some last minute shopping before getting on the evening plane. I like evening planes when going east across the timezones, because while the plane ride itself is uncomfortable, it makes the timezone transition very easy. One uncomfortable night on a plane and you’re almost adjusted to the new rhythm. As for the shopping, we got a few pair of shoes, some shirts, and I picked up a pair of sunglasses and a new leather jacket that I’m already in love with.

When we returned the car it did not look like that.

When we returned the car it did not look like that.

And now, after an actually rather short flight (5 hours 30 minutes from Boston to Reykjavik, 2 hours Reykjavik -> Bergen) we are finally back home! So much to see, so much to do. People we’ve missed, food we’ve missed! My mother was nice enough to pick us up at the airport, and ironic enough, the first thing that greet us as we walk into our apartment building is a grumpy neighbor whining because she thinks we’re the ones playing loud music in the bloc. Yup, we’re back in Norway alright.

So long, Boston.

So long, Boston.

In any case, time for a walk around town. After all, a trip isn’t complete until you’re back where you started.

Our last day in The US of A.

After months in Boston and a few weeks on the road, our trip is coming to an end. Having gone full circle across the south east we are now back in Boston, and getting ourselves ready to go back home. It’s been an interesting year so far, and a lot of views to process. But that’s for another time.

Our last commercial residence.

Our last commercial residence.

For our last day we drove down from Woodstock which was only a few hours, then dropped by MIT to do some final goodbyes to the good people we had the pleasure of getting to know. Evan, our old landlord from Boston, had invited us to spend our last night in the US at his place, and we got to get to know them a little bit better. Very nice and interesting people. Had dinner, shot some pool, listened to a little music and talked about America. They have a house so awesome it almost makes me want to own a house over a city apartment. Almost.

Trying to fit everything into our suitcases.

Trying to fit everything into our suitcases.

Now we’re packing up our stuff and getting ready to do some last minute shopping before we’re off to the airport. A leather jacket, shirts and shoes are what I need, lets see if the monster outlet mall can provide.

Ahh, the great outdoors

Leaving Niagara Falls behind we went east towards Boston, taking a scenic route through the Adirondack Park. We hit a bit of rain, and by a bit I mean the equivalent of a Bergen rain shower. The nature up here rivals that in Norway, making it both fabulous and trivial at the same time.

Much like Norway.

Much like Norway.

We passed a few small settlements before touching down for dinner at what’s probably a popular place in the ski season. Summer is to be considered off-season here in the green mountains. Afterwards we continued to Woodstock, Vermont; a small quiet, comfortable town where I wouldn’t mind spending more time. Compared to everywhere else we’ve been the motels here are all individually owned, and looks like nice places to stay. We went for The Shire Riverview Motel, which is just as cozy as it sounds. The plan is to head into Boston tomorrow morning and do some shopping on our last day in the US, but we might have to check out this little gem before we leave.

Niagara fails

I don’t mind the validity if the pun is good. Niagara Falls was actually quite a view, though a lot more touristified that I imagined. Why these things still surprise me after weeks on the road I have no idea. A myriad of tour operatives offering their take on how to best view the waterfalls, which includes all the otherwise individually priced “attractions”.

The Horseshoe Falls.

The American Falls.

We opted for the easiest solution, feet, and took the walkway around the park looking at the different parts of the waterfall in our own pace. It’s just a waterfall, I won’t shell out the equivalent of an Xbox game just to see it from a fourth angle. The gray sky also removed some of the picturesqueness of it all, as did the hordes of people.

The American Falls.

More waterfalls, el natural.

Sadly, after having dodged the rain for 20 days, it finally caught up with us and added an additional layer of drizzle over the natural wetness of the waterfall. Not too bad though, and we still a good view of the much referenced waterfall. Interestingly, and somehow counter intuitive, if the fact that the water flows from USA to Canada, which seems strange to most people because Canada is north and thus further up on the map. Somehow the brain creates the idea that water flows down on the world map. In any case, this means that the waterfall does look more majestic from the other side, but border crossings being a hassle and me missing some papers after my passport got stolen,we kept on the American side. Will have to save Canada for later.

The closest we ever got to Canada.

The closest we ever got to Canada.

After walking around the Niagara Falls park for a while we got back on the road and followed Lake Ontario east as far as we could get, stopping on the way to get some grub before calling it a (for us) early night and checking into a motel in Watertown. Tomorrow we are driving through Adirondack Park, the largest protected area in the United States. With some luck the rain will pass us by and the sun will light up the land once again.

Cleveland fails at tourism

On our way from Chicago to Niagara Falls we stopped in Cleveland to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where we ended up spending the afternoon. Pretty cool place, lots of history and memorabilia from the history of rock. Too bad it was a no-photography zone. Had some quotes from politicians that made me think of today’s attack on games, and the sad part is that it’s basically the same people saying the same things. Tipper Gore, I’m looking at you.

The second most interesing thing in Cleveland.

The second most interesing thing in Cleveland.

When the museum closed we went to find something to eat, which proved to be easier said then done. After walking in downtown for about 40 minutes, we found a Domino’s and a Sushi Bar. Everything else was closed, even the few stores we walked by. Obviously we must be in the wrong part of town, else this city has absolutely nothing to offer. Even so, the fact that there isn’t a single interesting thing in the vicinity of Cleveland’s main attraction is a simple case in point. Do not go to Cleveland.

Jacuzzi? Don't mind if I do!

Jacuzzi? Don't mind if I do!

So we headed for Niagara Falls and ate on a road side stop on the way. Got to Buffalo after dark, but the two hotels we found wanted more then we were willing to pay so we pressed on and ended up on a motel in Niagara Falls Boulevard. It was late and everything else was taken, and seeing a chance to fill up the clerk offered us a discount on their best room and we went for it.

Chicago by day

With a good night sleep under our belts we were ready to take on Chicago, and Barry had given us a few starting points downtown. First up, parking. Expensive and hard to find were the key words, so we opted for a parking garage and after some looking around, found one that would only charge us $26 for our 6 hour stay, a good deal compared to the first one we found which ran $40. It was also right across the street from the Trump Tower, making it easy to find.

The bean in millennium park. A strange reflecting thing.

The bean in millennium park. A strange reflecting thing.

We started with a walk through millennium park, a true masterpiece as far as parks go. It’s fairly new park, only a few years old and filled with contemporary art. In the middle is a decently sized concert area, and a subterraneancomplex provides the venue with a backstage as well as restrooms for the public. City developers of Bergen, take notice.

We want a venue like this in Bergen.

We want a venue like this in Bergen.

Getting somewhat tired of walking we took a one hour architectural cruise along the river of Chicago, looking at the skyscrapers and buildings that make up this fine city and learning a little about it’s history. Interestingly it’s a young city, having been built not by the first people that happened to settle there as is the case with most cities but instead by wealthy business men out of New York looking to turn profit. The result is streamlined areas and a city center owned by corporations, while an influx of German architects as Hitler started closing off artistic universities in Germany made it’s mark on the skyline.

More skyline. This city is picturesque!

More skyline. This city is picturesque!

Afterwards we finally got to do some shopping, picking up some new clothes before going for some genuine Italian pasta a few blocks away from the main street. It’s been months since last I had lasagna, and Miggiano’s didn’t disappoint.

One of *many* skyscrapers.

One of *many* skyscrapers.

I have to say, Chicago really surprised me. I’m not sure what I expected, but this was not it. Compared to New York which was dirty and boring, Chicago is clean and pure, with skyscrapers ranging from art deco to post modern to new modernism. The only catch is the traffic, which is simply horrible and just screams to be reformed through a modern system of commuting. There are several new technologies in the works, and Chicago is in dire need of a better solution then individuals in cars and an old school metro system.

St Louis -> Chicago

After St Louis we headed straight for Chicago in an attempt to get as much out of the windy city as possible. On the way over we did a bit if Route 66, and somehow managed to miss the rabbit petting farm which was suppose to be impossible to miss. I guess the numerous road kill will have to cover the cute and furry quota for now.

Long roads, tall buildings.

Long roads, tall buildings.

Late in the afternoon we arrived in Chicago, and went for some classical Chicago deep dish style pizza at Lou Malnati’s. The city itself really surprised me with it’s architecture, probably because I didn’t really know anything about the city before we got here. Lots of skyscrapers, art and creatively designed buildings. In the evening we met up with Barry, Evan’s brother, who had a spare guest room and enjoyed having visitors.

Different things going on with the buildings.

Different things going on with the buildings.

Now it’s time to get going, we have a day in Chicago and I plan on making the most of it.

Is so not in Kansas anymore

Interestingly, Kansas City is not actually in the state of Kansas. The city lies on top of a river which serves as the state line between Kansas and Missouri, a river which also has changed it’s course several times over the last few hundred years. How the bureaucracy work these things out you’ll have to ask somebody else, and I’m positive the issue is employing a fair share of paper pushers.

Liquid, unmarked salvage.

Liquid, unmarked salvage.

The Missouri river was a huge source of transportation in the late 1800, and an estimated 200  riverboats went down back in those days. This, combined with the fact that the river moved, meant that some of the sunken boats found themselves under farmlands. Some 20 years ago a group of five friends set out to dig up one of these riverboats. The result is the Steamboat Arabia museum, filled with merchandise from 1834 preserved for 150 years by the fresh water of the river.

Lots, lots and lots of salvage.

Lots, lots and lots of salvage.

After half a day in Kansas City we drove to St Louis, another mid-sized city I didn’t even know existed before we got there. Our first stop in St Louis was University City Loop where we had a burger at a place called Blueberry Hill. The street was an interesting mix of white punk rock guys, heavily tattooed girls and black homies. It’s getting a little less hot now that we have started moving back north, so a table outside was a perfect way to take in the feel of the area.

The Big Bang club.

The Big Bang club.

After walking around for a while we drove downtown and found a decent hotel to crash for the night. This being a Saturday we went for beers at Laclede’sLanding, dropping the sing-a-long piano bar The Big Bang. Dueling pianists is the concept, though this being a Saturday there was an abundance of bachelor/bachelorette parties out and about. Strangely enough, they were much more civilized then their Norwegian counterparts.

Getting the hell into Dodge

After passing a thunderstorm on our way up from Roswell it caught up with us during the night and pounded our motel hard. Wind tearing in the walls, hard rain assaulted the roof.. and then it started dripping. I normally sleep like a rock, but water dripping on me from the ceiling at 3 in the morning is where I draw the line. Then again, we could have been in Dallas which just got hit by a flash flood. Dodged a bullet there, that’s for sure.

Luckily I was not around to take this picture.

Luckily, I was not around to take this picture.

Checking out from Days Inn and getting a 50% discount for our annoyance, we head into town for the Boot Hill museum; a recreation of the Dodge of the old west. After reading about the Indians and checking out the cemetery, we caught the noon gun fight on main street between locals and outlaws. Having been a fan of the Deadlands role-playing system for years, looking at weapons, clothes, pictures and tools as well as reading stories about life on the western frontier was totally cool. Made me want to dig out my old source books again.

Dodge city as it once was.

Dodge city as it once was, save the cool looking dude.

After half a day in Dodge we got back on the road and set sail for Kansas City. Supposedly the BBQ capital of the world, so we (and by we I mean I) wanted to get there in time for dinner. Well we did, and went for dinner at a place called Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue which came recommended by locals. Now I’m not a connesaur on BBQ by any means, but this was the best ribs I have had to date. Meat so tender I didn’t even need a knife to cut it as it simply let go of the bone. Having never had a taste for the sweet BBQ sauce, this definitely changed that.

Finally we went to a concert at The Riot Room, something of an alternative rock/punk scene where a local band had their album release party. Walking around the city feels alive and there are lots of people in the streets. Oddly enough, there seems to be several policemen at each corner, some places as many as five, simply standing there. As we get back to the hotell we ask the doorman about it, and as it turns out, there has been a huge problems with shooting as of late to the point where they close off roads and make pedestrian detours on Saturdays so people have to walk more thus be too tired to start trouble. Odd.. and here I thought Kansas City was such a nice, friendly little mid-sized friendly town.

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